OBJECTIVE: Studies of suicide among immigrants from the Indian
subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka) were examined to
increase awareness of suicide risk and to better understand social and
psychological factors contributing to suicide in this group. METHODS: An
online search was conducted of MEDLINE for the years 1966 to 1994 and
Psychological Abstracts for the years 1974 to 1994, and all references on
completed suicides in the target population were selected for review.
RESULTS: Suicide rates of young women immigrants from the Indian
subcontinent are consistently higher than those of their male counterparts
and of young women in the indigenous populations of the countries to which
they immigrate. Suicide rates among older men in this immigrant group have
been reported to be low, although reports are less consistent. Use of
violent methods such as hanging, burning, and poisoning is common among
both men and women. A disproportionately higher number of immigrant Hindus
commit suicide. Family conflict appears to be a precipitating factor in
many suicides, whereas mental illness is rarely cited as a cause.
Depression, anxiety, and domestic violence may contribute to the high
rates. Affective disorders may be underdiagnosed in this population.
CONCLUSIONS: More research is needed on the epidemiology of psychiatric
illnesses and their contribution to suicide in this group.